ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Susan K. Carpenter Jeffrey A. Modisett
Public Defender of Indiana Attorney General of Indiana Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis, IN
David P. Freund Priscilla J. Fossum
Deputy Public Defender Deputy Attorney General
Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis, IN
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
ERICK S. SCHMITT, ) ) Appellant (Defendant Below ), ) ) v. ) No. 84S00-9905-CR-282 ) STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellee (Plaintiff Below ). )
May 8, 2000
In this direct appeal, appellant Erick Schmitt claims the trial court erred in
admitting Schmitts confession into evidence over allegations that the police offered leniency in
exchange for his statement.
A jury found Schmitt guilty of reckless homicide, a class C felony, Ind.
Code § 35-42-1-5; felony murder, Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1; robbery, a class A
felony, Ind. Code § 35-42-5-1; and attempted murder, a class A felony, Ind.
Code § 35-41-5-1. The trial court sentenced him to seventy-five years.
Tipped off by an informant, the police arrested Specht the following day; he
confessed his part in the robbery and implicated Schmitt and Evans as accomplices.
The police then moved to arrest Schmitt; they read him his Miranda
rights, handcuffed him, and placed him in the back of a police vehicle.
While Schmitt initially denied any involvement in the murder, upon seeing Specht
in the backseat of a different police vehicle, he admitted participating.
After arriving at the police station, Schmitt was again read his Miranda rights.
He signed a waiver of rights form, and agreed to give a
videotaped statement. Schmitt then gave a detailed account of the incident, admitting
his part in the shootings of Simpson and Tracy.
The decision whether to admit a defendant's statement is within the discretion of
the trial court. Horan v. State, 682 N.E.2d 502 (Ind. 1997).
When reviewing a challenge to the trial court's decision, we do not reweigh
the evidence but instead examine the record for substantial, probative evidence of voluntariness.
Jones v. State, 655 N.E.2d 49 (Ind. 1995). The State bears
the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant voluntarily and
intelligently waived his rights, and that the defendant's confession was voluntarily given. Berry
v. State, 703 N.E.2d 154 (Ind. 1998).
The trial court determined that Schmitt voluntarily and intelligently waived his right against
self-incrimination when he provided a tape-recorded statement to Detectives Wedding and Craddock.
We see more than ample evidence that Schmitt voluntarily and intelligently waived his
rights. Schmitt acknowledged that the detective read him his rights twice.
(R. at 591, 598.) Schmitt also voluntarily signed a waiver of rights
form acknowledging his awareness and release of these rights. (R. at 596-98.)
Moreover, Schmitt reassured the detectives a number of times during the conversation
that he understood everything they were saying to him. (R. at 554-55.)
Detective Wedding testified that he did not promise mitigated punishment. Similarly, he testified he never promised Schmitt would not get the death penalty. (R. at 608.) Moreover, it is significant that Schmitt confessed to the shootings only after viewing Specht in the back of another police car and being informed that the accomplice had already given a statement. (R. at 609.)
Schmitt also answered in the affirmative when asked if he had given his statement free of force, threats, or promises. (R. at 555). During his statement, Schmitt denied that any promises had been made to him in exchange for his confession. (Id.) Had leniency, in fact, been the deciding factor in Schmitts decision to talk with police, it seems unusual that he did not acknowledge this agreement at the very beginning of his statement. Finally, Schmitt never requested to speak with an attorney regarding the charges and conversed freely with the detectives concerning the details of the shooting. (R. at 554-90.)
Examining the record, we find substantial, probative evidence of voluntariness to support the trial court's decision to admit Berry's confession.
Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.
Schmitt: Yes sir.
Detective: Okay, and what I am going to do is read this same thing
to you basically what I said to you out there, okay. Before
I ask you any questions, do you understand your rights, anything you say
can be used against you in court, you have the right to take
[sic] to a lawyer for advice before I ask you any questions, have
them with you during questioning, if you cannot afford a lawyer one will
be appoint for you before questioning if you wish. If you decide
to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you still have the right
to stop answering at any time. Okay, thats just what I told
you basically out in the car and you said you wanted to talk
to me. Is that correct?
Schmitt: (nods yes)
Detective: You understand what I just read you, is that correct?
Schmitt: Yes sir.
Detective: I have read the statement of rights. I understand what my rights
are, and I am willing to make a statement and answer questions.
I do not want a lawyer at this time and I understand what
I am doing. No promises or threats have been made to me
and no pressure or coercion of any kinds has been used against me.
Do you understand? (emphasis added)
Schmitt: Yes sir.